Police say a 16-year-old white girl was motivated by racism when she allegedly plotted to attack a historically black church in Gainesville, Georgia.
The plot came to light when Gainesville High School students told administrators the teen had a notebook with detailed plans to kill worshippers at the church, police chief Jay Parrish said.
“Our investigation indicated the church was targeted by the juvenile because of the racial demographic of the church members,” Parrish said in a statement.
The teen was taken into custody and her parents were notified. She is charged as a juvenile with criminal attempt to commit murder, according to the Gainesville Police statement. Her name has not been released.
It’s not clear how the girl allegedly intended to carry out the attack, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gainesville police said the teen collected knives.
Pastor Michelle Rizer-Pool told the publication the girl visited her church last Wednesday, but no events were scheduled that night. Bible study is usually held on Wednesday nights, Rizer-Pool told the paper.
Parrish said in a statement the case is an example that strong relationships between the student body, school administration and law enforcement can “intercept a potentially horrific incident.”
“It just grieves my spirit on a number of different levels, one that the intentions of this young person were so calculated to do great harm against people who just simply had no knowledge of such a plot,” The Reverand Rose Johnson Mackey, director of the Newtown Florist Club, a civil rights organization founded in Gainesville 70 years ago, told the Associated Press.
The alleged plot comes amid a long history of black churches being bombed, burned and shot up across the South — hate crimes that continue today.
White supremacist Dylann Roof fatally shot nine black church members during their Bible study lesson at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, during the summer of 2015. Roof later told FBI agents he had hoped the killings would perhaps start a race war.
More recently, the white son of a sheriff’s deputy was arrested in April and accused of setting fires that destroyed three black churches in rural Louisiana. Holden Matthews is awaiting trial on arson and hate crimes charges in the Louisiana church burnings.